In one Facebook group the other day, (yes, I’m back on Facebook) one member mentioned they feel that a person who scans a property to provide an appraiser with a floor plan should be licensed. What do you think?
In this article, I thought I would share my thoughts on this and whether scanning a property with Cubicasa is considered to be an appraisal inspection. I know that not everyone will share my view about this topic, and I respect that.
WHAT IS AN APPRAISAL INSPECTION?
I think it’s important to understand what an appraisal inspection is. Interestingly, some appraisers don’t like using the term inspection when describing our walking thru a home to observe things like its condition, layout, and other aspects of the home that impact market value. Many now use the term “observation”, because some in the public, including some attorneys who are looking for ways to discredit an appraiser on an opposing side, like to hammer appraisers who use the term “inspection”.
Last month, I was on the phone with an attorney for the opposing side, trying to coordinate a time with their client to schedule the appraisal inspection of the marital home in a divorce case. The attorney questioned my use of the word inspection. So, I simply and respectfully told him that perhaps he prefers I use the word observation instead. He didn’t comment.
I still like to use the word “inspection”. It’s not rocket science to understand that there are different types of inspections. Inspection or observation, you pick.
So, what’s an appraisal inspection? The 2021-2022 edition of USPAP defines a “Personal Inspection” of a property being appraised as follows: “A physical observation performed to assist in identifying relevant property characteristics in a valuation service.” It then goes on to make an interesting comment: “An appraiser’s inspection is typically limited to those things readily observable without the use of special testing or equipment… An inspection by an appraiser is not the equivalent of an inspection by an inspection professional (e.g., a structural engineer, home inspector, or art conservator.”)
The same edition of USPAP goes on to make the following comment: “An appraiser may use any combination of a property inspection, documents, such as a legal description, address, map reference, a copy of a survey or map, property sketch, photographs, or other information to identify the relevant characteristics of the subject property.”
Notice that it does not prohibit an appraiser’s obtaining information, including such things as a sketch or photographs, from a source other than a physical inspection by the appraiser.
Choosing to inspect a property or not is a scope of work issue. An appraiser can certainly perform an appraisal without inspecting the property. Making a physical inspection of a property is not a USPAP requirement. Of course, if our clients require it, then it becomes a USPAP requirement on the assignment that we perform for them. And USPAP does require that we state whether or not we inspected the property.
Now that we’ve discussed what an appraisal inspection is, let’s talk about scanning a home using Cubicasa.
WHAT IS A CUBICASA SCAN?
When using Cubicasa to generate a floor plan and measure a home, the user simply aims their phone to where the floor and the wall meet, occasionally tilting the phone camera up to capture ceiling height and window placement.
Here’s a little video to give you an idea of what is involved in a Cubicasa scan.
The user scans every portion of the interior, and if there are exterior amenities such as additional buildings, decks, pools, patios, and things like this, they can be scanned as well. Once the scan is complete, the person taking the scan can review it before uploading it.
Once uploaded, Cubicasa will generate a detailed floor plan and will also include the measurements of the rooms and exterior measurements of the home that were scanned. Here’s a sample of what Cubicasa generates once the home is scanned.
You will also receive a sketch that looks like this. By the way, the colors of the walls, windows, doors, and rooms are all customizable.
This scan took me fifteen minutes. It was easy to do. I had the floor plan back the next day. Depending on the appraiser’s client’s requirements, a homeowner could certainly download the Cubicasa app, scan their home and send the floor plan and measurements to the appraiser.
Using this technology is a form of data collection. Therefore, some may consider scanning a home to generate a floor plan and obtain measurements to be an inspection. However, simply scanning a property for these purposes doesn’t fall into the definition of a “personal inspection” made by the appraiser, based on USPAP’s definition that I just quoted.
Using Cubicasa is easy and does not take a great deal of skill to use. It’s a simple straightforward process. Simply viewing a ten-minute instructional video is all a person needs to be ready to scan a home successfully. That’s really one of the beautiful aspects of this new technology! It’s simple, but it yields impressive results.
By the way, just scanning a home using Cubicasa’s technology does not provide the appraiser with all the information needed about the property being appraised. It’s simply a tool to create a detailed floor plan and measure a home.
I don’t see any issues with using another individual, including a homeowner, to scan a property using Cubicasa as part of the appraiser’s data collection process. It really depends on the scope of the work for that assignment and our client’s requirements and expectations. We just need to disclose what we did or did not do when it comes to a property inspection.
This leads me back to my conversation with the well-intentioned person on Facebook who feels that a person should be licensed to scan a home using Cubicasa.
My view is that requiring a person to be licensed to simply scan a home, or even to take photos of a home, is a little overkill. But that’s just my opinion.
Technology is changing quickly. Some things may require regulation. But not everything. For many appraisers, including myself, Cubicasa offers an outstanding solution to some challenges that we face out in the field for certain assignments.
If you haven’t tried Cubicasa yet, I highly recommend you do. Just once! See what you think. They offer one free scan to let you try it out. I think you’ll be amazed at what this new technology can do. Even if you don’t use it on every home, I bet you’ll start using it on homes that require more complex measurements. Earlier in the year, I appraised a home with over twenty-thousand square feet of above-ground area. The home had several accessory units, a large outbuilding that had several offices, bathrooms, a kitchen, and a lot of exterior amenities. It took me hours to measure the improvements on the property. Cubicasa would have cut my time in half. I wish I had it then. I’ll be ready for the next complex property!
Appraisers and home inspectors see all types of crazy things while performing our inspections. Enjoy this little video of some crazy things home inspectors see. I’ve seen some similar things.
If you’re an appraiser looking to sharpen your analytic skills, check out George Dell’s next Stats Graphs and Data Science 1 Class in August.
Have a great weekend!
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Here are some links to other articles I’ve enjoyed recently! I hope you will also…
Housing Enters Its “Bad Movie” Era – Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller
Recession-Proof Your Business Part 2 – The Real Value Podcast with Blain Feyen
What is a Valuation Model? – George Dell’s Analog Blog
How Can Appraisers Dress in This Heat? – DW Slater Company Blog
Is The Real Estate Market Shifting? – Birmingham Appraisal Blog
A sharp change in the housing market – Sacramento Appraisal Blog
Subject Property Location in Appraisals – APPRAISAL TODAY
For my readers in the CLE area… here are some articles related to news in our local area. I hope you enjoy these also…
Vintage Brand History Series: Degenhart Glass – The Mustard Dandelion Blog
Come sail away: Tall Ships sail into Cleveland next week- Fresh Water Cleveland